Jean Whitney Gold, a resident of Middleburg for the past 52 years and a founder and long-time director of the Middleburg Players, a popular community theater group, died peacefully at her home on Oct. 16. She was 98.
Mrs. Gold was born Jean Erwin Whitney in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 29, 1919, the daughter of Erwin Lionel and Grace McDonald Whitney.
She attended Monticello College in Alton, Ill. and graduated from the University of Tulsa. She then moved to New York City, where she studied drama with Tamara Daykarhanova, a disciple of Konstantin Stanislavski and the Method School of acting.
In 1942, Jean Whitney married John Kendall Snow of Raleigh, N.C. Mr. Snow worked for the Sperry Corporation on Long Island, New York. In 1943, she joined the staff of LIFE magazine, working in the photo lab and the news Bureau.
In 1954, she retired to Sag Harbor, Long Island to raise their four children, while running an antique shop and writing for the Southampton Press and Sag Harbor Express newspapers, including two memorable interviews with author John Steinbeck. She also performed in Guild Hall productions at the John Drew Theater in East Hampton.
In 1960, Jean Snow returned to Time Inc. to join the newly-created department of Time-Life Films, working with documentary filmmakers Don Pennebaker and Bob Drew, with whom she covered the JFK inauguration in 1961. The company began its book publishing operations that year and Mrs. Snow became a researcher, working on American Folklore and U.S. history, until 1965.
Her marriage to Mr. Snow ended in divorce. In 1965, she married William Gilmor Costin, Jr., a New York theatrical producer who was an actor and director at the John Drew Theater.
They moved to Middleburg, where, in 1969, they established The Middleburg Players. Following Mr. Costin’s death in 1976, she became the director of the organization, putting on a number of highly-acclaimed productions, many of them hit Broadway shows, featuring local actors and musicians, and she remained in that capacity until 1998.
In 1980, she married William Jay Gold, a former Time-Life editor, with whom she had worked on LIFE magazine in the 60’s. For the next three years, she and her husband produced a 15-volume series on American musicals for Time-Life Records, a division of Time-Life books.
The Golds also created the Piedmont Society for the Lively Arts, devoted to promoting cultural activities in the area.
After her husband’s death in 1989, Jean Gold continued to live in Middleburg and remained active in the theater.
In 1996 she formed an alliance with Maxine Bean of Hillsboro in an attempt to revive interest in the radio plays of the 1930s and ‘40s. They brought back some episodes of Fibber McGee and Molly, and Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, as well as a special reading of her son William Snow’s play “Ordinary Magic,” among other productions.
In 1998, the Middleburg Players put on “It Was Mostly Fun,” a musical revue written by Mrs. Gold, Fred Spencer, and Christian Meyers. It was based on a book by Doc Saffer, a native son, and the production based on his memories of growing up in Middleburg became an “Our Town”-like hit.
Mrs. Gold was a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg. Over the years, she had been involved in the Christmas Shop and the Altar Guild, as well as the Fauquier-Loudoun Garden Club, the Aldie Horticultural Society, and the Middleburg Tennis Club.
She is survived by her children, Jonathan Whitney Snow and Julie Kendall Snow of Long Island, N.Y., William Stronach Snow of Paris, France, Blackburne Costin and Brackenridge Costin of California, a nephew, Douglas Whitney of California, six grandchildren, 11 step-grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and nine step-great-grandchildren.
She was predeceased by her son Christopher Kerr Snow of Middleburg, her grandson, Dashiell Snow of New York, her stepsons, William Gilmor Costin III of California and McKelvy Costin of Middleburg, as well as by her brothers Charles E. Whitney and Robert C. Whitney of California.
A funeral service was held November 4th at Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains.
Donations made be made in memory of Jean Gold to Blue Ridge Hospice or Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg, Va.